NEW YORK—A Jobson Research poll of opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists in response to recent updates by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the Eyeglass Rule shows that the changes will have moderate to significant impact on practices' workload and bottom line. As recently reported in VMAIL, the FTC announced final updates late last month to its Ophthalmic Practice Rules, also known as the Eyeglass Rule, in what the organization stated was an effort to increase compliance with the requirement that ophthalmologists and optometrists provide patients with a free copy of their prescription immediately following a refractive eye exam. Among the updates are the requirements that ECPs must now ask patients to sign a statement confirming they received their prescription, keep a record of that confirmation for at least three years, and offer patients the option of a digital prescription.

The Vision Monday survey of ECPs—in which they were asked about how these rules will effect their current workflow, what changes and additional work they expect to be added to their days and if they will have to add new staff following these updated rules—demonstrates that the updates will have broad impact for ECPs, practice staff and bottom lines.

"We are grateful to all of our readers who have responded to the survey, and would encourage all impacted practices and dispensaries who have not yet done so to participate in this poll," said Anne Cooper, editorial director of Vision Monday and 20/20. "It is clear from survey responses that this is a significant development for ECPs across the U.S., and we will continue to report on survey results and further developments, should they arise."

Out of 335 total survey respondents as of Friday, July 5, 183 are opticians/dispensers, 150 are optometrists and 2 are ophthalmologists. All provide refractive eye exams, and all but four dispense eyeglasses. Two-hundred and twenty-six respondents (67.5 percent) said they currently provide patients with a free copy of their prescription following a refractive eye exam; 106 (31.6 percent) said yes, upon request from the patient; and 3 respondents (0.9 percent) said they do not provide patients with a free copy of their prescription following a refractive eye examination.

Source: Jobson Optical Research

Source: Jobson Optical Research

When asked how much of an effect these new regulations will have on their practices, 148 (44.2 percent) said “a little effect;” 139 (41.5 percent) said no effect; and 48 (14.3 percent) said these changes will have a “significant effect” on their practice. One-hundred and seventeen respondents (34.9 percent) said these new regulations will create “a little bit” more work for the doctors at their location; 53 (15.8 percent) said they expect “a significant amount” more work; and 165 (49.3 percent) said they do not expect these regulations to change the amount of workload for doctors at their locations. One-hundred and thirty-one respondents (39.1 percent) expect these new regulations to create a little bit more work for staff at their locations; 101 (30.1 percent) expect a lot more work for staff; and 103 (30.7 percent) expect no change.

Source: Jobson Optical Research

One-hundred and fifty-eight respondents (47.2 percent) expect that these new regulations will have no effect on their bottom line; 145 (43.3 percent) expect to see “a little effect;” and 32 (9.6 percent) expect to see “significant effect.” Finally, about half of all respondents expected to have to make some adjustments to their practice in order to comply with the new requirements: 21.8 percent expect these changes will increase time allotted per patient; 9.6 percent expect to increase staff; 10.1 percent expect to invest in new software; 19.4 percent expect to update their computer technology; and 54 percent reported “no adjustments needed.”

Source: Jobson Optical Research

Following the updates to the Eyeglass Rule, optical associations across the country shared their reactions, reflecting the significance of the decision to U.S. practices and dispensaries.

“Too many officials and agencies remain out of touch with what we face every day in our practices, and the result can be an emboldened bureaucracy and schemes for burdensome new mandates," said Steven T. Reed, OD, president of the American Optometric Association (AOA), which is working to provide member doctors compliance tools and guidance with a goal of easing burdens associated with the FTC’s rule update. "Our AOA will never stop fighting to change that and to stand up for the doctor-patient relationship as the foundation of optometry’s essential and expanding role in health care.”

“The American Academy of Optometry understands and agrees with the desire of regulatory agencies to create policies that ensure patients have a choice in where they purchase prescribed eyeglasses," the American Academy of Optometry shared in a statement. "However, these rules should not create an unnecessary administrative burden on doctors, diverting time away from optometry’s primary role of delivering much needed comprehensive eyecare. The Academy supports our strategic partners, including the American Optometric Association, that are actively advocating for common sense policies that can balance these often-competing goals.”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology said, “The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a long history of supporting efforts to improve consumer choice and ensure that they can obtain eyeglasses in a cost-effective manner, promoting optimal vision and eye health. Unfortunately, we believe FTC’s updates to the Eyeglass Rule are misguided and will do more harm than good. The ophthalmic community has an exemplary record of compliance with prescription release requirements of the existing Eyeglass Rule. We are disappointed that the FTC did not take the prudent and appropriate step of targeting new administrative and financial burdens on non-compliant prescribers. Instead, they have chosen to ignore the compliance of our members and penalize them in the same manner as prescribers flouting requirements of the existing Rule. The Academy strongly opposes such actions.”